Hosting Tutorial & Guide

How to Start Email Marketing – Make An Effective Plan Now

updated on Sep 24, 2015
How to Start Email Marketing – Make An Effective Plan Now Email marketing brings endless business opportunities. By sending valuable messages to dozens, hundreds or even more people, you can get increased conversion rates and many more sales. Even if you are running a personal blog, an effective email marketing campaign can help you promote your content and get readers better involved.

However, email marketing is not about sending emails to people anytime and anyway you like. You must take time to work out detailed plans for the content, design, delivery, etc, or you may get into serious problems such as spam filtering and terrible losing of subscribers.

This post offers a comprehensive guide for beginners. You can learn how to launch an email marketing campaign from the very beginning.

Before You Start

You have to think a lot about what you want to achieve from email marketing, and who will read your emails and click on the links. Therefore, before doing anything else, complicate the following tasks first.
  • Define your audience. This helps you group your subscribers and decide what content you will deliver to them. For example, if you are a blogger, your subscribers should be interested in the content published on your site. And if you are selling products, they will want to get some special offerings or the information about new products.
  • Decide your goals. This is important for making a content strategy and collecting accurate statistics you need. There are large differences between directing readers to your website and increasing sales.
  • Select an email marketing service. To get started quickly, you can use a web-based email marketing service. MailChimp, Benchmark Email and Campaigner are good options which make the following steps easier.

Step 1: Build an Email List

A clean email list is a necessity for an email marketing plan. If you have no subscriber yet, you should now put a signup form on your website to allow visitors subscribe to your website for updates or promotional offers. Depending on your site traffic and the quality of contents/products, building an email list would take days to months.

Below are the notices and suggestions you should pay attention when making an email list.
  • Collect subscribers in a natural way. Do not try to force your readers to offer their email addresses.
  • Only include the email addresses which your visitors actively put into the signup form in your email list. Any other emails, such as the ones you get from comments or the contact us form, should not be used.
  • If you want to maintain several email lists which are grouped based on user activity or other standards, make sure that you are not duplicating accounts in different lists.
  • If you are not familiar with email list management or signup form generation, you can refer to this MailChimp tutorial.
Build an Email List

Step 2: Make a Content Plan

Content is the heart and soul of your newsletters. If your subscribers find that the messages they get are useless, it's possible that they will unsubscribe or put the emails into the junk folder. To resolve this problem, you must know what your audience wants from you, and then make detailed plans based on their needs.

If you are not quite sure about the content types, you can conduct a survey on your website and ask your visitors. After getting the answers, list the popular content types so you can refer to them when writing a newsletter.

In addition, we have the following suggestions for you to deliver good content.
  • Focus on the readers. You must treat them well and provide them with useful information only. Offer special benefits to delight them, and do not promote yourself too much.
  • Show the benefits clearly. You can display all benefits in an easy-to-read list.
  • Keep the content simple and short. People usually take a few seconds to read an email, so you should make sure your subscribers can scan your content quickly. If you want to share a lot of information in a single newsletter, show an excerpt or a key quote only and then add a link to the rest content.
  • Build your own style. Be creative and try to give readers a special impression about your tone or sense of humor. Making things interesting and impressive will definitely contribute to your business.
  • Learn from others. You can look for some great email examples on the web to get inspired by their content strategies.
  • Decide the frequency. Be sure to send your newsletters on a regular basis. Generally speaking, we do not suggest you to maintain a high frequency. Bloggers can start by sending out one newsletter per month, and retailers can focus on holidays or new products.
Make a Content Plan

Step 3: Understand the Email Types

Basically, you can choose to send out either an HTML email or an email in plain text. But nowadays, most people prefer to send HTML emails in multipart-alternative MIME format which combines the benefits of HTML emails and plain-text emails. Such an email comes with a bundle of your HTML code and a plain-text version, so that plain text can be served in the case that HTML cannot be rendered by the email client.

It sounds difficult, but most email service providers like MailChimp now support alternative MIME format and make it easy to send an email in this format.

Step 4: Design Your Email

The importance of design cannot be emphasized too much. If you are a blogger sharing content with your subscribers only, you can easily select a well-designed template offered by your ESP. But for retailers, more professional designs are needed, so you may need to hire a designer.

To optimize the design of your emails, make sure that you have done all of the following things.
  • Keep the design simple and clean, and focus on the content. Content always comes first. Do not make the readers confused, and help them go straight to the important messages.
  • Keep the width of the layout around 600px. This ensures that your entire design is visible even in the narrow preview window.
  • Make sure the content can be conveyed effectively even without images. As many email clients do not load images by default, your subscribers might see the text only before they can browse the design.
  • Make a clear call-to-action button. You should tell your readers what you want them to do with the email. State your purpose clearly with an encouraging call-to-action button so that they can decide the next action quickly without any confusion.
  • Ensure the design is mobile friendly, so that it can be displayed well on phone, tablet and any other mobile devices.
Design Your Email

Step 5: Test Email Design and Content

When you have designed your first email and entered the content, do not hurry to send it to your subscribers before making sure that the template can work well in different email clients. As email clients are developed differently, you'd better send tests to as many clients as possible to see whether there are bugs or mistakes in the display. The popular ones like Gmail, Outlook and Hotmail are especially important.

If you find it's a little bit hard to test different applications by yourself, you can send the email to several friends and ask them to have a check on the design, images, links, and content.

Step 6: Avoid Delivery Issues and Spam Filters

We do not suggest you to send newsletters from your hosting provider. Massive mailing may cause your hosting account to be suspended or terminated, and sending too many emails from a single IP can also trigger email firewalls and get your emails blocked. However, using a third-party email marketing service prevents most of the delivery issues.

Spam filtering issues are also common and severe. Once you violate the rules, your email can be marked as spam automatically. Another case is that you may receive an abuse report when a recipient thinks your email is spammy and labels it as spam. To prevent these problems, you must follow the guidelines below.
  • Be careful with the content. Do not use capitals for the entire word or sentence, especially for the subject line; prevent exclamation points, and avoid phrases like "buy it now" and "click here".
  • Make sure you have got permissions. Every account in your email list should have granted you the permission to send newsletters to it. Don't purchase any list or send emails to a person who does not know you.
  • Use double opt-in when building your email list. By providing a confirmation link, you can make sure that the subscribers are willing to give permissions to you.
  • Provide a clear unsubscribe link. If you hide the link, people who do not want to receive your emails any longer would choose to mark your newsletters as spam or move all of them to the junk folder.
Avoid Spam Filters

Step 7: Collect Statistics and Analyze the Performance

After sending emails for marketing purpose, you must wonder how much traffic they can bring to your website, and whether there is an increase of sales. To measure the performance of existing emails and to get some ideas about the optimization of the next email, you should at least check the following stats.
  • Clicks on the links. You should know how many subscribers have clicked the links, and which links are clicked the most. The click rates help you know the general behaviors of your subscribers.
  • Unsubscribe rate. By analyzing the unsubscribe rate of each email, you should be able to offer better content and work out a more proper frequency for future emails. If an email receives a spike in the unsubscribe rate, look into the problems carefully.
  • Website traffic logs. Check Google Analytics after sending each email to see whether there is an increase of traffic and how long the new traffic lasts.
  • Bounce rate. Read the bounce rates for each email, and remove the email accounts to which your newsletter is completely undeliverable. Those accounts could no longer exist.